I'll be preaching on the first 14 verses of chapter 12 this Sunday at Christ Church. We know from the life of Jesus that Faith is born of relationship and not through trying to keep an endless list of rules and regulations. Our relationship with God through Jesus Christ is the heart and soul of a vital and vibrant faith. Unfortunately, probably because vital faith can feel nebulous to many of us -- what are the bench marks, what are the metrics, how do I know how I'm doing -- it is easy for us to fall back into the legalistic approaches of the Pharisees. The Pharisees are not bad people they just can't seem to get past the form of their religion to actually live in relationship with God. This form of religion is wrapped up in a long set of rules:
Because the commandment said: Keep the Sabbath Day holy, on it you shall not work, the religious teachers felt it necessary to define what "work" was. In their conclusion if you were a teacher, teaching would be work; if a farmer then farming; and if a healer than healing for you would be work and therefore forbidden on the Sabbath. This is why they Pharisees are so upset with Jesus in 9-14 -- Jesus won't play by their narrow rules.
Jesus returns to the core theme of a vibrant faith in verse 33 -- a good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bears bad fruit. We do what it is inside of us to do. If our hearts are not being transformed (daily) than all that we do is likely to be proceeding from mixed motivation or envy or pride or . . . The point of the Gospel is that we are changed from the inside out. I had an east Indian friend of mine once say "the outside reflects the inside." I think on one significant level he is correct. Who I am (or, at least, who I am becoming) will be revealed in how I live my life. It will be seen in my values, my decisions, what I choose to do and what I choose to avoid and what I choose to confront and what I choose to encourage. If I am not being made into the image and likeness of the Son of God . . . then I will live out my stale broken humanity in every aspect of life.
Notice that no amount of legalistic encouragement can make this work. I can keep all the laws and still be filled with Pride, Anger, Lust, Envy and all the rest. If the root of the tree of my life is being transformed by the grace and love of Jesus Christ I won't have to think about keeping the laws -- living within our Creator's designer's specifications will be the natural ebb and flow of my life.